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The Situation Room

Traditional reporting and online resources update international news.

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Russia 52, Crimea 43, U.s. 28, Nato 13, Us 12, U.n. 10, Benghazi 8, United Nations 7, Pentagon 7, Poland 7, Angie 6, Angela Merkel 6, Moscow 6, United States 6, John Kerry 5, Merkel 5, Jim Sciutto 5, Syria 4, Nina 4, Clinton 4,
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  CNN    The Situation Room    Traditional reporting and online  
   resources update international news.  

    March 5, 2014
    2:00 - 3:29pm PST  

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constitutional rights under the fifth amendment and on his advice i will decline to answer any question on the subject matter of this hearing. >> as you recall, democrats in the obama administration have rejected the idea that tea party groups were intentionally targeted, noting that some liberal groups also received extra scrutiny from the irs. that's it for "the lead." i'm jake tapper 3 i turn you over the wolf blitzer in "the situation room." wolf? jake, thanks very much. a u.n. envoy threatened and blockaded by a group of armed militia men, forced to leave crimea. secretary of state kerry meets with counterpars from ukraine and russia and says all involved will try to resolve the crisis through dialogue. and what is vladimir putin really thinking? i'll speak with someone who got to know him. president obama's former national security adviser tom donlon will join me live this hour. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
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a united nations diplomat threatened by armed men and jeered by a pro-russia crowd as tengs rise in ukraine. here are the latest developments. a u.s. special envoy was threatened and blockaded by armed militiamen, forced to take refuge in a cafe and ultimately forced to give up his mission and leave crimea. secretary of state john kerry meets in paris with his russian counterpart sergey lavrov who says all parties agree to hold intense talks to try to overcome the crisis. defense secretary hagel takes heat up on capitol hill but says the u.s. is suspending military exercises with russia and will step up training with poland's military. we have full coverage beginning with our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto here tw latest. jim? >> i think you could say today we saul the full yin and yang of the u.s. policy response to the
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crisis in crimea. on the other side, secretary of defense chuck hagel demonstrating the u.s. commitment to its nato allies with the deployment of some aircraft and the cancellation-of nato contacts with russia. on the diplomatic side, we saw the opening of a diplomatic path to solving the crisis, the so-called off ramp u.s. officials have mentioned before, still undefined, kerry said, but a start. >> reporter: u.s. and russian diplomats face to face for the first time since the start of the crisis in crimea. secretary of state john kerry said they are now negotiating a diplomatic path to ending it. >> we are committed to working with russia. together with our friends and allies in an effort to provide a way for this entire situation to find the road to deescalation. >> reporter: russian and ukrainian officials, however, did not meet. >> why didn't you meet lavrov today? >> reporter: but as the
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diplomats talk or don't talk on the ground, tensions are boiling over. today u.n. envoy robert serry attacked by an armed mob as he attempted to visit crimea. russia, russia they chanted. serry was forced to take refuge in a cafe. as militia blockaded him inside. >> and when i left my car was blocked, and they -- and i -- and somebody who did not identify himself was telling me e that he had orders to bring me immediately to the airport. i refused. >> reporter: six days into the crisis, u.s. lawmakers are now asking why the administration didn't see russian military intervention coming. >> the fact is, mr. secretary, it was not predicted by our intelligence and that's already been well-known, which is another massive failure because of our misreading, total misreading of the intentions of
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vladimir putin. >> early last week, we were well aware of the threats. when i was in nato, again, there was a meeting specifically about the threat so this wasn't sudden or new. >> reporter: cnn has learned that the cia's assessment of the situation included a number of possible scenarios, including russia ordering troops off bases in crimea and into sovereign ukrainian territory. as well as mobilizing ethnic russian civilian militias. congressman adam schiff, who was a member of the house intel committee, read the assessments, disputes that the intelligence agencies fail. >> they did lay out a series of scenarios that might take place. what did take place was one of those scenarios. but it only depend on whether the decision was made enough in advance that the intelligence committee could pick up the clues. >> intelligence assessments are rarely definitive, not perfect,
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they rely on the best information possible but are invariably incomplete and the one wild card speaking to a number of officials, woman, tlf vladimir putin. some are saying it was a snap judgment by him so difficult to predict. >> the chairman of the house intelligence committee wants a full-scale investigation to learn lessons to see if there were intelligence failures. >> no question. we were talking about that last week. we heard this consistently from u.s. officials. it was their assessment last week up until really the final days and hours that russia was not going to go in, go across that boarder in numbers. >> reminds me of the intelligence failure leading up to the iraqi invasion of kuwait back in 1990 when the intelligence estimate was the iraqis threatened the border but wouldn't move into a fellow arab country. of course we know operation desert shield and operation desert storm resulted as a result of what the iraqis did then. there was an intelligence failure. we'll see what happens here. >> unfortunately a relatively long list.
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>> thanks very much, jim sciutto, for that report. jim will be back later. u.s. officials report no major moves by russian forces either in ukraine or inside russia but they say russian troops carry out massive war games this week under the gaze of the russian president p vladimir putin are still in the field, most have not returned to their barracks. at the same time the pentagon is taking concrete new steps to try to address the crisis. let's bring if our pentagon correspondent barbara starr. what are you learning, barb? >> reporter: wolf, the pentagon and the u.s. intelligence committee have laser focus on those russian troops still in the field. many had traveled down from central russia, haven't gone back home. why are they still there is the big question e it ear their territory, perfectly allowed to be there, but why haven't they gone home? the pentagon watching this and also today moving to reassure east european allies. for the first time the pentagon is using its aircraft to send a
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message to russian president vladimir putin. >> the defense department is pursuing measures to support our allies including stepping up joint training through our aviation detachment in poland. >> reporter: it's boast symbolic and significant support for allies like poland worried about russia's move into ukraine. c-130s will be training at this military base hagel visited just a few weeks ago. and on russia's western, lithuania, latvia and estonia, which have small military forces, will get more u.s. f-15s and nato aircraft patrolling their air space. u.s. military exercises with russia are already suspended. the pentagon says it's all about showing u.s. support for fragile allies in the face of russian military might. but some say it's not enough. >> we're taking those actions
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because those are the only places we have troops available in eastern europe. if we really want to put the squeeze on moscow we would go to nato and discuss putting the ukraine on an accelerated time line for enter into the treaty organization. that would really put the squeeze on moscow. >> reporter: and then there is diplomacy military style. the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff says he told the russians he didn't buy their explanation about no russian troops in crimea. >> these are soldiers who have been taken out of their traditional uniforms, repurposed for placement in the crimea as a militia force. but my judgment is they are soldiers. >> reporter: and the bottom line in this standoff really remains the same, wolf pap lot of concern that any miscalculation on the ground in crimea could spark conflict. >> are they concerned at the pentagon that these largely
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symbolic u.s./nato military steps will result in russian military steps and this could slowly escalate? . >> reporter: well, at the moment what they're saying is they think putin certainly does understand these are relatively small steps to help east european allieallies. none of these have any great military significance beyond showing support. but, look, if he wants to make a big deal about it, he can't. they've told the russians what they're up to, made it clear, and they believe that putin does and should understand that, wolf. >> thanks very much, barbara. up next, vladimir putin may be thumbing his nose at the u.s. and its allies but there's one leader he can't afford to anger too much. why germany's chancellor, angela merkel, may be the key to this crisis. and i'll speak with tom donil donilon.
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russia's president vladimir putin spoke today with the german chancellor angela merkel. even as but tine thumbs his knows at the western allies she may be the one leader he can't afford to anger too much. brian todd has been looking at the story. >> that phone call today was one of several angela merkel has had with putin since the crisis began. she's also spoke within president obama multiple times during the standoff. it's looking more and more that merkel has the most clout, has a pipeline to vladimir putin that the man in the white house doesn't.
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>> reporter: it's no secret president obama's strained relationship with vladimir putin isn't helping in this crisis. who can solve it? maybe the toik daughter of a pastor, german's chancellor, angela merkel. >> vladimir putin knows from experience that the hast enemy he wants right now in europe is germany. >> reporter: germany has huge economic leverage over putin. t buys more an ta third of its natural gas from russia, exports technology and cars to russia. analysts say what makes her so crucial in this crisis is she has something that obama doesn't -- a personal connection with russia's president. >> they have a lot of connectivity because putin speaks fluent german and merkel speaks russian. >> reporter: she grew up in east germany under the communist system dominate fwid soviets. putin was a kgb officer who served in east germany. analysts say they understand each other's political dna. a german official told us they are not friends. after a recent phone call on ukraine she reportedly said putin is, quote, in another world. but she has a savp vi and
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toughness he respects. several years ago putin brought a large dog to a meeting with merkel apparently wanting to test her, knowing she has a fear of dogs. she was terrified, says an analyst, but didn't flinch. hay thai negotiated more than an hour. >> she did not blink because she understands the russian mind-set. she knows the russians and in this case vladimir putin wanted to play russian chess with her, which means the person who blinks the first has lost. merkel's relationship with president obama recently became strained with reports the nsa tapped her cell phone. but analysts say it's her credibility with both the white house and the kremlin that's making the difference. >> i think she's probably more willing to take into account to listen to what russian concerns are and to try and dissuade the russians from seeing that everyone else is ganging up against them. >> merkel has her own stake in this. because of those economic ties germany could be among the biggest losers if this cold
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war-style standoff gets worse. that's why she's been more reluctant to push sanctions against russia and doesn't want to kick putin out of the g-8. >> let's go to the president's former national security advisor, tom donilon, joining us. you met with putin on several occasions during your tenure as national security advisor. would you agree with this report that angela merkel called him in a phone conversation with the president said he was in another world if you will or madeleine albright, the former secretary of state, who said here on cnn's "new day" yesterday said putin was delusional? you know this man. is he delusional? >> i don't know if i would say that. i'd say he has a clear idea i think of what his strategy is here which is to regain some leverage in a situation where he lost leverage in ukraine which putin regards as a spirited one for russia. when ukraine is was moving
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toward the west, they get rid of yanukovych and he acted here pip think he has a sense of strategy. but he is an autocrat and it is interesting obviously in those situations as to how information comes to autocrats. do people bring him accurate information? i'm not so sure they do all the time. but i wouldn't call him delusional. >> just surrounded by a bunch of sycopha sycophants, people telling him what he wants to hear? >> the russian foreign international security system can't be called a system. it embodies one man. he is the system. he runs an autocracy. i think he has a single silo of information that comes to him. you did see him in a 66-minute press conference the other day say a number of things which are demonstrably false. whether that's a tactic, whether that's just trying to make your case in telling deliberate falsehoods or in fact he has bad information it's not clear to me at this point. >> in your one-on-one meetings
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with him, when you went to moscow representing president obama, what was your impression? take us inside his mind. how did he come across to you? >> quite straightforward and direct in his interactions with you. there were occasions when he would assert things that just weren't true. for example, that the united states and the west were behind certain activities in moscow. but quite direct person to deal with. >> but did you get the impression he's an intelligent guy, a smart guy, someone on top of the situation in that sense? >> i got the sense that he was, you know, well informed, spoke clearly, understood where his strategic goals were, what his strategic goals were but in fact would make a number of assertions that were demonstrably false even in private conversations. but you could push back on it. >> give me an example. >> my first meeting with him was in may of 2012 on a friday night before he was inaugurated as president for the second time of
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russia. >> he was the prime minister, then became the president. >> exactly. and he was president before he was prime minister, became president for the second time. >> right. >> in that conversation we went through and really toured the world. in some places in the world, for example, in syria he had a different view of the facts on the ground than we did. and you can debate it with him and i did at some length. it was clear by the way in that meeting that in fact the approach that we had taken with his predecessor where we'd accomplished the start of new things, a new arms control treaty and other things, that there was going to be a difference many the approach, much more confrontational. >> this notion of suspending u.s. military cooperation, it's having a spillover e effect. the u.s. and russia are cooperating in destroying supposedly syria's chemical weapons stockpile. but that is now on hold. is that wise? important for the united states and the international community to stand up very forcefully in
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condemnation of what putin and russia has have done in crimea and ukraine. and this may be one of the costs of this. >> that's a pretty serious cost if that effort to destroy syria's chemical weapons stockpile, which was so important obviously to the region and the world, all of a sudden that's been put on hold because the u.s. and russia are no longer going to cooperate militarily? >> i think ultimately we can get back to that. russia has a lot at stake in that agreement in terms of destroying the chemical weapons in syria and the materials that we use to support that program. and i think we can get that back on track ultimately. i hope so. it is important obviously. >> because u.s. and europeans need russia in a whole host of arias, not just the syrian and iran, where else as you well know, better than most. >> i do. i dealt with the russians in each of those areas. but we have a situation here where you had an absolutely illegal action by russia done really under the pretext of protecting russians from
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assaults and threats that nobody else can find, clearly a pretext, and essentially an effort to upend is post cold war era here on viability of borders on meeting the arrangements put in place including the protection of ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity at the end of the cold war. this is a really important moment for the united states to lead. >> mike rogers, chairman of house intelligence committee, says he wants a full-scale review now of intelligence because he says there was an intelligence failure that the u.s. did not fully appreciate what putin was up to as far as the ukraine and crimea are concerned. i think there's a pretty clear understanding of exactly what president putin's interests were in the ukraine, that in fact he regarded ukraine as spart of a sphere of influence, that they were going to push back very hard in the wake of ukraine turning to the europeans for an association of free trade agreement, and i don't think that was a surprise in terms of
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his attitude. but we'll have olympian ti of time -- >> it was a surprise he moved troops in. >> again, i'm not sitting in the white house at this point. i don't know exactly what the information was in front of the decisionmakers at that point, but his overall attitude i don't think was a surprise in terms of how he regards ukraine. the port-au-prince of ukraine to the vision he has, a fanciful vision of a eurasian union that would be counter to the european, there will be plenty of time to look at what the intelligence was. now i think we need to move along a number of dimensions, need to fully embrace the kiev government, which we're doing. secretary kerry was there yesterday meeting the foreign minister of the ukraine today. we need to put together a strong and substantial economic package and we made progress on that. the european union announced today a $15 billion package of loan, grants, and celts. we need to push forward with the plans to have the elections in ukraine this may. we need to continue the effort to try to de-escalate and if possible put together an
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agreed-upon -- out here. we need to reassure our nato allies and need to put in place sanctions and clear costs to the russians for this activity should it's ka late. there's a lot of talk about how we don't have any leverage in this situation and how the costs won't be that significant with respect to russia. that's just not true. you can stand apart politically, and putin has stood apart dee faintly in a political matter, but you can't separate your economy from the globalized economy. >> tom donilon, thanks for coming in. the president's former national security advisor. coming up, hillary clinton making a comparison between vladimir putin and adolf hitler. we now have the recordings of her remarks, her initial remarks, how she's following up today. she's explaining what she was trying to say. stand by for that. echoes of the cold war. is putin trying to bring back the soviet union or rebuild a greater russia? i'll speak with a russian journalist and a former soviet
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hillary clinton making comments comparing put put to adolf hitler. could the remarks bite her if she e run in 2016? brianna keilar is working this story for us. hillary clinton spoke out moments ago with a clarification. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. just moments ago at ucla where she was giving a lecture. but first i want to play for you audio of what she said yesterday. this was at a fund-raiser in long beach. and she was drawing a comparison between what putin is doing in crimea as far as his justification for russia's
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involvement in crimea comparing it to hitler's justification on intervening on behalf of russians living in choke slovakia living in poland. take a listen. >> today putin said in a long press conference oh, you know, all i want to do is protect the rights of the minorities, namely russian speaker, and he e's been on a campaign to get everybody who has any russian connection, retired russian military in crimea, given them all russian passports. now if this sounds familiar, it's what hitler did back in the '30s. all the germans that were -- you know, the ethnic german, the germans by ancestry who were in places like czechoslovakia and romania and other places, you know, hitler kept saying, they're not being treated right, i must go and protect my people. and that's what's gotten everybody so nervous.
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>> reporter: just to be clear, she was explaining today, clarifying that her remarks were likening what putin's actions, justification really for coming to the aid of russians as he is justifying russian involvement in the crimea to germany's, to nazi germany's really -- as hitler said at the time trying to defend german minorities in check slzechoslovakia and polan. here's what she said less than an hour again as she tried to explain that. >> so i just want everybody to have a little historic perspective. i'm not making a comparison certainly, but i am recommending that we can perhaps learn from this tactic that has been used before. >> reporter: and it's interesting to point out today, wolf, that there's been a lot of
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attention, obviously, because hillary clinton used -- you know, evoked nazi germany, was talking about adolf hitler. but it really -- she hasn't gotten a ton of criticism for this, though she obviously tried to clarify her remarks. it does seem that what she was really trying to do today was kind of speak to some criticism that republicans recently have had of the obama administration and of her. she was the face of the reset with russia when she was secretary of state in the obama administration, sort of trying to make clear that she understands vladimir putin is a bad guy, that she always understood this even as she sought a diplomatic solution, trying to kind of push back against some of these claims that she and the obama administration have been naive in their pursuit of foreign policy with russia, wolf. >> all right, brianna, thanks very much. thanks for the context as well. let's discuss this and more with cnn analyst and russian journalist vladimir pozner, once
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a spokesman. also joining us the granddaughter of nikita kruschev. thanks to both of you for coming in. vladimir, let me get your quick reaction to that report we just had on the former secretary of state hillary clinton making this comparison to what putin has authorized in ukraine and crimea to what hitler authorized before leading up to world war ii. go ahead, vladimir. >> well, it's regrettable. i had hillary clinton on my show in moscow and i found her to be a very intelligent person. i think it was a slip of the tongue because what hitler did, this isn't poland, this is czechoslovakia, he actually invaded. the nazi army marched in, and this is not something that putin has done. he's asked for permission to do that. so i think frankly the comparison is a lame one, although in both cases, yes, hitler spoke about the way ethnic germans were mistreated and putin has spoken about the
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way ethnic russians are mistreated. but there's a big difference between invading a country and talking about those things. so i don't think it's really a good comparison. >> i'm going to bring nina in a moment. but you agree, vladimir, there are russian troops in crimea right now and they've taken over certain key positions. that's what eyewitnesses have reported. so you would agree to that. right? >> well, i have a problem with it, wolf. the question -- what i've heard is from some people is that these are local self-defense russians. they're not members of the russian armed fors. now, there are some people who say they are. there are other who is tay save they're not. and i don't think there's a lot of clarity here. i think it will make a little bit of time to establish that. if those are people who have been sent in as armed fors from russia that i think that's something that cannot be tolerated by anyone.
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but i think that has to be proven. >> all right. nina, i want you to weigh in as well because i know you have some serious thoughts on this. what are your thoughts? >> well, my thoughts are, first of all, that hillary clinton should know better to use a hitler comparison because it really doesn't help, history doesn't help russia, certainly doesn't help to understand ukraine today. we may find some similarities, but the minute you use nazis, the words nazis or hitler, the conversation goes in an entirely different direction. there are other historical comparisons she could have made that wouldn't have been that drastic. so that's my first thought. and i would like to disagree with vladimir, if i may, please, that indeed they are without insignia, the russian troops, or those troops allegedly, but this is also such a vladimir putin style to keep the ambiguity, to have the world questioning what's going on.
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i mean, of course, i saw in various reports cars and machinery using with the russian numbers so that really makes them quite russian. and i do think that it is more of a ploy for vladimir putin to then sort of have this insidious invasion rather than first-rate invasion and buy some time this way to decide whether he wants to go full force with russian army or he would like to see and wait. >> do you want to respond, vladimir, to that? >> no. i take nina's point very well. what i'm saying is this. if putin wanted to go in full force he would have done it. i think it was yesterday that he had a press conference where he said basically the threat of armed conflict in crimea is no longer existing. point. so clearly he's not interested in doing that. that's one thing. the second thing is this -- if this is not -- he's trying to
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hide, these are members of the russian armed forces there wouldn't be russian license plates on those plates and they would never say they're russian soldiers. they've been told do not say that. so i think there's still something to look at. i would not argue with nina that maybe she's right. i'm just saying the desire to draw those conclusions is a very strong one considering what's going on. >> nina, you've studied putin for a long time. take us inside his mind right now. why is this crimea situation, a lot of analysts are already concluding he may already have won in crimea irrespective of what happens next. but take us inside his mind. why is crimea and ukraine so important and specifically i asked this question because your grandfather, nikita krush ef, he handed over crimea in in effect, took it from russia, made it sort of autonomous, as part of ukraine. >> well, he did, indeed.
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it was the soviet union, so he was basically moving chess pieces -- sorry checker pieces from one to another, from one jurisdiction, which was the russian federation to the ukrainian republic. so at the time it really was not as important as it became important in 1991 when the soviet union fell apart and boris yeltsin became the president and as the first president of russia really did not claim crimea back from ukraine in russia in 1991. so i think it's very complex in this sense. as for vladimir putin, i actually think that indeed he got what he wanted. he wanted crimea. he is a uniter or sees himself as a uniter of the russian land. he obviously cannot rhee re create the whole soviet empire, the whole soviet union, but he certainly can take strategic parts that he feels important for russia to have and also boost his own image because he does appear as this defender of
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the russian nation, of the russian ethnic people. and as for -- it's not proven -- maybe it's not proven, but what i study is i study political patterns, and this is a political pattern. he does this. this is his pattern. he sort of goes in and sees it, claims it, then says, well, that's the story and how we have to deal with it. >> nina kruschev, thanks for joining us. vladimir, thanks to you as well. as i said, all the eyewitness account, reporters on the scene, who have spoken to those troops without those insignia, those uniforms, they've been suggesting they are, in fact, russian troops, not ukrainian troops, russian troops. but we'll continue to watch what's going on in crimea. up next, soldiers help a reporter scale a wall and get inside a ukrainian base for a rare and dramatic report. we'll speak live with that reporter and ask him what he saw. and a republican senator trying
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to link the ukraine crisis to the deadly attack on the u.s. compound in benghazi. we'll check his claims. your eyes really are unique. in fact, they depend on a unique set of nutrients. [ male announcer ] that's why there's ocuvite to help protect your eye health. as you age, your eyes can lose vital nutrients. ocuvite helps replenish key eye nutrients. ocuvite is a vitamin made just for your eyes from the eye care experts at bausch + lomb. ocuvite has a unique formula that's just not found in any leading multivitamin. your eyes are unique, so help protect your eye health with ocuvite.
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[ speaking foreign language ] >> reporter: we just came over the wall of the ukrainian naval base. and we're in. >> that's dramatic video just coming in from vice news showing
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a reporter climbing the wall-the ukrainian naval base with the help of ukrainian soldiers. both entrances to the base were apparently blocked by large pro-russian crowds. the reporter says ukrainians inside feared they were being stormed at the time. here's what happened next. >> so apparently these russian soldier, they came in overnight and they're just wandering around the base and doing what they want because they're not really bothering anybody but it's not clear under whose permission they were let into the ukrainian naval base. they've already barricaded up the doors with tables. they've put these desks everywhere to make it harder for people to move through. >> simon joins us now from sevastopol in crimea. simon, how tense was it inside that ukrainian naval base?
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>> i think it was a lot of confusion for the sailors there because the chain of command had been broken the night before their commander switched sides to the pro-russian side so the new ukrainian government in kiev just that morning had to appoint a new admiral and so they went and pledged allegiance to the new admiral while the old admiral was calling for all of the sailors to switch sides. so it was a bit of a messy situation, especially having russian soldiers actually on the base and around the base and sort of crowds all around as well. >> you spoke with some ukrainian soldiers who had to hide their own weapons. let me play a little bit. >> so the ukrainian navy just showed us they still have their weapons because some people were saying that the russians had taken them last night when the admiral [ inaudible ]. but they just put them into their locker because they just
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don't want, you know, a little accident to happen. >> all right. so explain what that little accident could be. now why would they be hiding? these are military personnel hiding their own weapons, these ukrainian troops. >> it seems like the ukrainians have decided to try to keep things as calm as possible by not carrying any weapons around because i think they don't want to create even more tense situation than it is already. and, you know, in order to repre vent any shootings or a war to break out, they decided that the best bet would be to put their weapons away. but that's what they were saying, but the reality of the situation may have been that the russians who are a superior force told them to put the weapons there but maybe they just didn't want to tell me that on camera. >> simon, you also had an intense continue front case, exchange outside that ukrainian military compound. tell our viewers what happened.
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>> reporter: well, one of the things that's been happening during this whole confrontation between the russians and the ukrainians is that they've been gathering crowds of russia supporters outside of the bases. but they're not just regular people. they're people who are very angry and very aggressive and against the western media who they've been told are lying about the situation here in crimea. so these people have been prepared to think that journalists aren't telling the truth and when they see a foreigner most of them get up in your face and, you know, really try to prevent you from being able to report. and it got a little bit tense at one point when i was coming out because they surrounded me, they grabbed my cameraman by the neck and they were smacking the camera around and, you know, we barely got away. >> be careful over there, psi mop. thanks for your terrific reporting. we'll certainly update what's going on tomorrow if you're available.
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excellent work for all of us. coming up, a growing number of republicans that are piling on president obama's handling of this crisis in ukraine, one even linking it to the deadly attack in benghazi. dana bash caught up with that senator to get some answers. >> how on sert what's happening in the ukraine a result of what happened in benghazi? ok, here's the way the system works. let's say you pay your guy around 2 percent to manage your money. that's not much, you think except it's 2 percent every year. does that make a difference? search "cost of financial advisors" ouch! over time it really adds up. then go to e*trade and find out how much our advice costs. spoiler alert. it's low. really? yes, really. e*trade offers investment advice and guidance from dedicated professional financial consultants. it's guidance on your terms not ours that's how our system works. e*trade. less for us, more for you. ...and let in the dog that woke the man who drove to the control room
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one u.s. senator lindsey graham going as far as linking the ukraine crisis to the deadly attack in benghazi. our chief congressional correspondent dana bash has more. >> reporter: the senate republican leader argued obama's weakness emboldened vad mir putin in ukraine. >> can you think of any place in the world where we're better off now than we were when he came to office? >> so you think it's the president's fault?
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>> i think a passive approach to foreign policy which basically means not asserting american interests is a mistake. >> reporter: republicans have been pouncing on the president for days. >> why do we care? because this is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in america's strength any more. >> reporter: but a series of rapid fire tweets from gop senator lindsey graham caused the biggest stir, especially one linking today's crisis to the 2012 deadly attack on the u.s. consulate in benghazi saying it really in many ways started with benghazi when our consulate was overrun and our first ambassador was killed. how on either what's happening in the ukraine a result of what happened in benghazi? >> not just about the ukraine, about our standing in the world. >> reporter: graham argues the president made threats he doesn't follow through on, calling syrian chemical weapons use a red line, making demands in egypt that were ignored and
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promising to hold benghazi attacks responsible. >> unlike crossing a red line with assad, unlike egypt, people died in libya. and any time that you can overrun an american consulate and kill an american ambassador and people perceive that you're all talk and no action when it comes to avenging their death, it does hurt more than all those others, in my view. >> reporter: not all high profile republicans support the blame the obama approach. >> it is important that we try to find a way to unify behind whatever policy the united states pursues because i think it gives us more strength and influence. >> reporter: the reality is the president did follow through on some major international promises like pulling troops from iraq and soon afghanistan but those are decisions republicans disagree with and republicans did not blame president bush in 2008 when putin invaded georgia. >> putin's a bully and a thug,
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and he would act this way regardless of who the president of the united states is. it's ridiculous to say it's because of something president obama does or doesn't do. >> reporter: there is surprisingly similarity among republicans and democrats over what to do about the situation now, wolf. in fact, there is going to be a bipartisan resolution before the house foreign affairs committee with el yet engel and counterpart voted on tomorrow. nonbinding, but it will say they should deal with sanctions and there will be something on the floor dealing with loan guarantees which is what the president wants. >> see more of dana's interview later tonight on "ac 360. a special u.n. envoy has an encounter with armed men.
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happening now, the crisis in ukraine. dangerous diplomacy, a u.n. special envoy to ukraine threatened by gunmen, then abandons his mission during a critical round of high stakes talks. where about to speak live with the envoy. secretary of state john kerry tries to pull russia back from the brink while critics take shots at the obama administration's handling of this crisis. tension on the ground. protesters face off as long simmering divisions threaten to tear ukraine apart. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we begin this hour with the tension and the danger on the ground in ukraine even as some of the world's top diplomats try to defuse this international
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crisis. we saw new proof today of just how volatile the situation is when the united nations special envoy was threatened by mysterious gunmen. we're about to speak to that envoy. stand by for the interview. but first background. we're joined from the crimea region of ukraine. anna, what happened? >> yeah, wolf, as you say, proof today as to just how dangerous and volatile the situation is here on the streets of crimea. u.n. special envoy to ukraine, robert ferry, he's a father of three from the netherlands, he was attacked by a local militia, these thugs are big supporters of russia and vladimir putin. militiamen surrounded the united nations envoy to ukraine hunkers down inside. >> please come as soon as possible now. >> reporter: robert ferry says
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he felt threatened and fled to safety inside the cafe after armed men stopped him and tried to get him into a car. >> somebody who would not identify himself was telling me that he had orders to bring me immediately to the airport. i refused. >> reporter: ferry cut short his trip and flew toist tan bull in the midst of a flurry of high stakes diplomacy. >> russia can now choose to de-escalate this situation. >> reporter: western powers are trying to turn up the heat on russia and vladimir putin search aring for a way to defuse the crisis. but here in crimea, ethnic russians are the majority and they're rallying in support of moscow. >> crimea is not being invaded. we're not in danger, not from russian side anyway. >> reporter: these people here despise europe and the west and have no desire whatsoever to become part of the european
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union. in fact, the referendum to be held here at the end of the month will determine if this autonomous region becomes completely independent from ukraine. long simmering tensions are bubbling up in the crimean capital and spreading across the region. russian forces fired warning shots over the heads of ukrainian troops as they approached a military base on tuesday. near ukraine's eastern border with russia a tug of war for control. near the home town of ousted president viktor yanukovych. pro-russia demonstrators who stormed the building monday were removed today but they reportedly recaptured the building hours later. wolf, there are reports that more russian troops are heading to crimea, which as we know will only further escalate the
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situation. >> thanks very much. more now on that u.n. special enjoy threatened today, blockaded by armed militiamen forced to take refuge na cafe, the special envoy to ukraine, robert ferry, joins us on the phone exclusively. i take it you're in istanbul, you're out of ukraine right now. tell us what happened. what was it like? >> yes, let me try to explain what happened. as you know the secretary-general had asked me to go to the crimea and actually to report back to him on the situation there. i had tried to be going there already a couple of days ago. it proved impossible then. this time in coordination with doc, which is still on the ground. i had started my meetings and it was my objective to meet with as many parties as possible. so for instance, i'd be meeting
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also with representatives of the russian community. i saw the leader of the crimean, who told me that the crimean population is increasingly frightened of the decreasing security situation. then at the request also of the ukrainian government, they asked me also to visit the headquarters of the navy which has been the object of a standoff with the so-called local self-defense forces. when i came there, i entered the building and i was briefed by the general and i can tell you that i only had admiration for the courage of these people trying to defend the integrity and unity of the ukraine. and when i left that building and wanted to a car, i was
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stopped. the car was also blocked. and people who refused to identify themselves told me that they have received orders, i asked from whom, they didn't answer, to bring me immediately to the airport. they said it was in my own safety. i refused. then ra standoff ensued for i think a couple of minutes. and then they actually pulled the driver out of the car. they -- some armed -- again, they were not identifiable. but they were wearing camouflage uniforms, tried to get into the car. they actually managed to get into the car. but i managed to get out. then i walked -- let me tell you, at not one moment i was actually physically assaulted or stopped. i tried to hail a taxi, but the taxi was told to move on. and then i found a cafe where i went in with my sisters and another standoff ensued over
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there. i, of course, had been calling for some assistance and some help. i was very happy actually for the press to arrive because that made me feel a bit safer. then after two hours also in front of the -- this cafe, a number of protesters appeared. by the way, these protesters were nowhere to be seen when this started. and the situation became tense again. and then a person very much advised me to leave and he guaranteed my safety and i would be brought to the airport. well, that happened. i arrived at the airport. now a little standoff between people, again unidentified uniformed people at the airport, i had to wait for 20 minutes in the car, but then also, thanks to the help of some parliamentarians from the crimean parliament, i managed to get into the airport and two
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tickets had been reserved for me already to get out. and then now happy to be in istanbul. let me put this also, wolf, in perspective. you know, what has happened to me, i hope serves as a reminder to all how dangerous the situation has become in the crimea. there is a very urgent need to de-escalate this situation. all those who are responsible and can do that must have cool heads, lower their rhetoric and fix this situation. i am very worried for what would happen if there is bloodshed. there are people in the crimea who actually behaved there with a lot of self-restraint. >> you know, mr. serry, i'm happy you're out of there because it was a very tense situation. i take it these were armed militiamen, these individuals who were preventing you from
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doing what your job was. were you ever at any moment scared for your life? >> no, wolf. i wasn't. i wasn't. i've been in some other situations, and i didn't -- i cannot say that i felt very comfortable, but i -- no, it's not that i felt directly threatened, no, i didn't. >> what i've been told by experts including u.s. officials, one of the nightmare scenarios they have is exactly what you're describing, some hot heads there, some thugs, if you will, they get involved in real bloodshed and who knows what could happen, how this bad situation could escalate. that's your nightmare scenario as well. how worried are you that that could happen? >> i think it can happen. and that's why i feel that there is an immediate need to address this situation. >> how can it be calmed down? what other step -- you're a diplomat. you were representing the united
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nations, representing the secretary-general of the united nations. you had this awful experience that we saw unfold. what needs to be done? give us some specific recommendations. >> well, i think, first, you need to address the situation on the ground. a mechanism is very much needed between the apparents involpart the crimea to start to control the situation and to de-escalate these tensions. there may be -- there can be help from the outside if the parties accept that. but with this immediate need to actually de-escalate tensions on the ground. what is, of course, very important is that the political dialogue starts between representatives from the republic of crimea and the government in kiev. of course, i've heard also grievances from the russian population who are telling me that they feel themselves also
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threatened by what has happened in kiev. there is a lot of distrust. that can only be overcome if we find a mechanism now for all these people to start talking. >> the secretary of state of the united nations, he's been talking to the russian foreign minister in paris, sergey lavrov today. they are going to continue their talk, i take it, later this week in rome. that's a good start, but at the same time the u.n. and other organizations, international organizations want to send monitors or observers to crimea, to ukraine, but given your experience, that could be pretty dangerous, right? >> well, you know, i feel that certainly would also be one way of trying to cool down the situation, if you can send international observers. and this is also what the osee mission, which is still on the ground, is discussing with parties there. they are meeting with.
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but i think it is also very important that on the international level, you mentioned the discussions which have started now in earnest, i hope between the united states, russia and others that there is a collaborative international effort which the united nations can also be part to actually ensure that we can address the situation on the ground. you know, ukraine threattons to be pulled apart in the rhetoric in only increasing rather than decreasing. >> robert serry, the special united nations envoy to ukraine. he was in a very tense situation in crimea today, but he's now out. he's in istanbul getting ready to report the o the u.n. secretary-general. but thanks for your report here on cnn, thanks for your report to our viewers in the united states and around the world. good luck. we're happy you're safe and sound, mr. serry. thank you. >> thank you. up next as tension rises
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we'll map out the latest military moves in the region. many jim sciutto is here. honestly? i wanted a smartphone that shoots great video. so i got the new nokia lumia icon. it's got 1080p video, three times zoom, and a twenty-megapixel sensor. it's got the brightest display, so i can see what i'm shooting -- even outdoors, and 4 mics that capture incredible sound. plus, it has apps like vine -- and free cloud storage. my new lumia icon is so great, even our wipeouts look amazing. ♪ honestly, i want to see you be brave ♪ ♪
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and if you switch, you could save up to $423. liberty mutual insurance. responsibility. what's your policy? signs as tension between the u.s. and russia rises over the presence of thousands of russian forces in ukraine's crimea region. let's get some more with retired u.s. army brigadier general and jim sciutto. so u.s. officials, general, tell us that there are still thousands and thousands of russian troops, they were engaged in an exercise just outside ukraine, that exercise has ended but they're still there. they're not in their barracks. how worried should nato officials be as they see what's
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going on? >> i don't think they should be wore ed, but they should watch it carefully. obviously putin is keeping them there just in case things get worse. but as long as they're sitting in their places, staying in the barracks being watched by intelligence assets -- >> today the secretary of defense a the chairman of the joint chiefs announced nato military moves. >> they did. to expand existing operations there. they're going to put a few more aircraft, most likely c-130s, f-16s here in poland as an air detachment. they're also up here -- it's not on the map but up in this direction, the baltic states, lithuania, latvia, estonia. they don't have their own air force so nato runs their air patrols for them. they'll run f-16s, possibly p-3 orions. then coming up you'll have a u.s. destroyer coming to the black sea. to be clear, that was previously scheduled, a routine trip but they'll keep it going.
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when you look at the map now, you have extra planes here, a few here, a navy ship here. a bit of a pincer movement to demonstrate this. this is not kinetic, they won't fire any guns or put boots on the ground. >> and these are nato allies that we're talking about, poland and the baltic states. but one of the things talking about this with the special u.n. envoy, the miscalculation, that's what everybody is worried about. that this could explode because some low level types could perhaps start killing people. >> sure. and we saw that the other day at the airfield where we had the ukrainian soldiers marching out, the russian soldiers firing shots. imagine where we'd be right now if that had termed, as jim said, into a kinetic operation. >> for some people are already concluding for all practical purposes putin has won. he's got crimea, in effect, it's under his control. he can rest easy now. >> there is definitely that
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school of thought and some administration. he's made it clear he's not going to give this up, right? so what are the next steps? the hope is that he doesn't expand military operations from the crimea area into eastern ukraine. that hasn't happened yet. but even if he takes his trioop back to the bases here, there's talk of a political move as well that crimea is somewhat autonomous, making it even more autonomous. in which case he wouldn't have to bring it physically out of the union of ukraine but more autonomous pledging in effect to russia, that's a strategic win a political win. >> you heard our exclusive interview with the special u.n. -- he had a harrowing experience today. you know this individual. he's been in some harrowing experiences in his career. >> he has been. he's been down to the balkans before. sounds like what he went through today was pretty harrowing for him. >> he's shaken up, but he's okay. thanks to you, general for coming in, and jim sciutto, as
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usual, thanks to you. other news, we're following a mosquito-borne illness described as excruciatingly painful. why health officials now believe it's heading to the united states. save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.ould yep, everybody knows that. well, did you know the ancient pyramids were actually a mistake?
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let's continue the breaking news coverage. secretary of state john kerry gearing up for another round of ukraine crisis talks in the coming days after intense discussions in paris that included russia's foreign minister. our senior white house correspondent jim acosta has our report. >> reporter: it was a day that turned down the heat as secretary of state john kerry announced he and foreign
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ministers from russia and ukraine had finally agreed to start talking. >> we agreed to continue intense discussions in the coming days with russia, with ukrainians in order to see how we can help normalize the situation, stabilize it and overcome the crisis. i'd rather be where we are today than where we were yesterday. >> reporter: as kerry insisted that russia pull back its forces, the obama administration took a moment to give dialogue and diplomacy some room to breathe. after days of sharp words with vladimir putin including that phone call last saturday, president obama avoided questions on ukraine and only made a glancing reference to the standoff at an event on the minimum wage in connecticut. >> it doesn't matter whether it's in central europe or in the middle east or africa, individuals want a chance to make it if they try.
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>> reporter: one day after the president spoke with german chancellor angela merkel about a diplomatic offramp to russia, she pitched up to putin. the word of the day was de-escalate. >> our ultimate goal was to de-escalate. >> reporter: whether it was jack lew warning of sanctions in russia or the pentagon's top brass on plans for nato to beef up its presence in eastern europe. >> we want to provide nato's leaders with options that stabilize but not escalate tensions in the ukraine. >> reporter: the only escalation in sight was between republicans and the administration. with john mccain accusing the intelligence community of missing putin's designs on crimea. >> another massive failure because of our misreading -- total misreading of the intentions of vladimir putin. >> i said that early last week we were well aware of the threats. >> can youhi